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The God Squad: Kalo Pascha

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: As a Greek Orthodox Christian, it seems I’ve been explaining all of my life to other Christians why Orthodox Christians celebrate what we commonly refer to as Pascha, oftentimes much later than “Western” Christians.

The Orthodox only celebrate the first Sunday following the completion of the Jewish Passover. The calculation is biblical and Jewish no matter all of the celestial and lunar hocus pocus.

From my youth as a Greek Orthodox, chocolate or stuffed bunnies, dyed chicks, jelly beans, and other accouterments borrowed from Western and pagan sources were anathema in the gathering, (ecclesia), of our Faith. The anticipation of our ultimate Pascha via a plethora of Holy Week services is literally an exhortation and total focus on Christ’s Resurrection from the dead and that, in a nutshell, is our Passover.

Today, all the commercial stuff moves to the forefront and often produces an atmosphere better suited for Hollywood Boulevard. Too bad for those caught up, Orthodox or otherwise, in a temporal and fatuous dimension. As we Greeks say, Kalo Pascha, may we all participate in and celebrate a Great Pascha! – (From J in Kankakee, Illinois).

A: Sorry for the spiritual anxiety foisted upon you by marauding easter bunnies, my dear J! You do bring up an important dimension of how religions define themselves and how they differentiate themselves from other religions and this dimension of faith is the calendar.

By having a different calendar we define a different religion because to observe a holiday on one day that is not a holiday in another faith is a decisive and permanent split. For example, Christianity separated itself from Judaism by making the Sabbath day Sunday and not Saturday.

The main issue is whether a sacred day is calculated based on the lunar calendar or the solar calendar. Christianity uses both a solar and lunar calendar. Christmas is always on Dec. 25, but Easter is always linked in some way to the time of Passover because of the Christian teaching in Luke that the Last Supper of Jesus and the disciples was a Passover meal.

Passover, like all Jewish holidays, is calculated on a lunar calendar, which is roughly 11 days shorter than the solar year. What this means is that if no adjustments to the calendar are made, Passover, a springtime holiday, would eventually fall during the dead of winter and that would violate its springtime essence. So, to fix this, every four years an additional month of Adar is added to the Jewish calendar to keep Passover in the spring.

 

Now, because Easter is tied to Passover, it must also be adjusted to keep it near Passover. This is why your branch of Christianity, Greek Orthodox, simply made the ruling that Pascha falls on the Sunday after Passover whenever that is. The non-Orthodox Christian calculation for the date of Easter is to select the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the next Sunday.

We are now in the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims and Ramadan is calculated on a pure lunar calendar because it is not associated with any seasonal event but rather to the event of the pilgrimage of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. What this means is that Ramadan floats through the entire year 11 days at a time each year. It also leads to one of the most beautiful religious blessings I know, “May you celebrate Ramadan in every season of the year.”

The important spiritual message of Passover, Easter and Ramadan is that we are obligated to spend the bulk of one month a year giving thanks to God for the abundant blessings that have been showered upon us. The sacrifices of God for us are matched in our small way to the great sacrifices made by God for us.

Let me wish you a Kalo Pascha and for our Muslim brothers and sisters a Ramadan Mubarak and for our Christian friends a Happy Easter and for both our Jewish readers (!) a zissen Pesah.

May this season of renewal help us all to remember that the ways we are different are so much less important than the ways we are all the same.

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at godsquadquestion@aol.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2024 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


(c) 2024 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

 

 

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